The fourth day of the brightening lunar fortnight in September marks the beginning of a ten day festival honoring the divinity named Ganesha in India. If you have been to an Indian household or temple, you may have seen his image prominently displayed in entryways. Ganesha is only one his (one thousand and one) names, and he holds the unique distinction of being the first deity to be invoked in any Vedic prayer service.
The festival begins with a “(re)establishment” of Ganesha in the home or the temple, and in temporary celebratory pavilions set up by communities for the ten days of the festival. Small and large figurines of various degrees of ornateness are created by artisans in the form of paintings and sculptures. The festival begins with an elaborate welcome to Ganesha by the celebrating communities, which is appropriate as he is considered to be the “chief of community groups”.
The popularity of Ganesha’s festival is perhaps because of his status as a “remover of obstacles”. His assistance is deemed particularly useful when embarking on new beginnings or during significant life-events. One distinguishing characteristic of Ganesha is his propensity towards a lightness of spirit, an attitude of playfulness and airiness. The proof of this propensity is that his vehicle of choice for his heavy physical frame is a mouse!
If you have read this far, and this is your first introduction to Ganesha, you are probably wondering – what does all of this have to do with (non-denominational) spirituality? I am glad you asked. Ganesha can be viewed as a representation, a metaphor for our intrinsic joy and lightness. His love for food (particularly, sweet stuff!) is a metaphor for adding sweetness to our lives at every opportunity. His elephant head and human body is a metaphor for the Oneness of all living beings.
Is it possible that by (re)establishing one or more of Ganesha’s qualities within us, that we may learn to make light of our own obstacles in life? When weighed down with our own struggles, do we often lose perspective and forget our heart’s intrinsic lightness? When anger turned to bitterness invades us, do we tend to forget our own inherent sweetness? When our own obstacles starve for our attention, do we tend to lose appetite for empathy towards the problems facing others?
The combination of Ganesha’s qualities of lightness of heart, love of sweetness and insatiable appetite for the offerings (of obstacles) made to him, are perhaps a prescription for us. A prescription to make light of our obstacles, and to help others make light of their own.
And then, like the revered figurines of Ganesha that are taken in grand procession and immersed in waters on the tenth and final day of the festival, we shall celebrate the letting go of, the immersion of our own (revered) obstacle(s) in the waters of lightness…
P.S. Join us Sunday, September 16 at 9amET / 630pm India for our weekly community gathering on twitter in #SpiritChat. I will bring the sweetness of questions. You can bring the lightness of answers. Namaste. (Wikipedia article about Ganesha’s Festival).
Bees at work – making light of obstacles!
From my home to yours – remover of obstacles…